Why We Should Take Fewer Pictures Of Our Children

Via the New York Times, David Zweig has a harrowing observation on the first generation of children raised under constant digital surveillance:

“I want to look at pictures on daddy’s phone!” I can’t recall when this entreaty started. I only know it has been repeated like a mantra nearly every day by my 3-year-old daughter for as long as I remember her being able to speak in sentences.

On the surface a child’s preoccupation with personal photos seems quite benign, or even beneficial. And yet I fear her photo obsession may hasten her self-consciousness to a degree that’s no longer constructive.

Our children’s lives are being documented to a degree never done before. I often have over 100 new pictures per month added to iPhoto on my computer. Like adults, kids often act differently when they know the camera is on. There’s a reason posed shots almost always seem so awkward and artificial compared with candid ones. The very act of documentation, ironically, affects the moment it is trying to document.

The more we film, the more time our kids are, to one degree or another, knowingly acting a scene for the camera rather than just being present. The other day, in a sweet moment, my daughter put her arm around her 1-year-old brother. Before my wife and I could finish our “aww”s, my daughter said, “Take a picture!” A 3-year-old shouldn’t know which of her actions are worthy of being documented; she should simply be in the moment.

10 Comments on "Why We Should Take Fewer Pictures Of Our Children"

  1. ILoveCats | Nov 7, 2012 at 11:02 am |

    Very scary but true. Although, when ‘everybody is doing it’, it makes it harder to keep a sense of age specific normality.

  2. We’re raising a generation of Olsen twins. Lord help us all.

  3. The act of documentation affects the moment that is being documented….Scrodinger’s Camera effect?

    I am having my first child soon, thinking about this kind of stuff. thanks! 🙂

  4. Piotr Pederastakov | Nov 7, 2012 at 12:45 pm |

    If parents don’t continually update their profiles with their childrens’ pictures, what legal options are left?

  5. Tchoutoye | Nov 7, 2012 at 3:07 pm |

    “A 3-year-old shouldn’t know which of her actions are worthy of being documented; she should simply be in the moment.”

    Contrast the knee-jerk caution when it concerns young children to when it concerns ourselves, as if being in the moment is something wasted on adults.

  6. I’m re-blogging this, but changing the first-person plural pronouns in your headline to second person. I was tempted to append a “Part Two” onto it, since Part One is “Because you spend far too much of my time trying to get me to look at them.”

  7. My sister had twins a year ago. Since their birth i can say with confidence my sisters have taken over 2500 photos of them. Their only a year old…

  8. Taragoola | Nov 9, 2012 at 8:10 pm |

    As technology advances and times change kids are bound to understand different things. A child recognizing that it would be a good time to take a picture mean they aren’t an idiot. That’s a good thing.

  9. To this rate we’re all gonna need a second life, in order to review all the media we recorded in our 1st one.

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